Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Ins and Outs of Course Changes

We take great pride in creating courses for our runners that capture the best of the local scenery and provide a great race experience. This does not come without some serious and labor-intensive behind-the-scenes logistics though, course measurement is precise down to inches – yes, every single inch counts.  Moving a curb in the road 10 inches can (and actually did) affect the course.

So, when the City closed the access road to Elizabeth Park that was part of the 2013 half course, the tedious process ensued to change the course, and then re-measure and certify it.   The NU Hartford Marathon, Half Marathon and 5K courses are all USA Track & Field Certified courses.  Courses are not measured by GPS, tape measure, surveying equipment, car, or by walking with a measuring wheel. All certified road race courses are measured by a standard bicycle fitted with a calibrated mechanical counter on the front wheel.  We hire a certified certifier (they really exist, we can’t make this stuff up!) who follows a 100-page manual of rules.  Because the start and finish are in the same spot, and there’s no turn-around to adjust for slight change, everything had to be precisely changed within the route.

What does all this mean to the NU Hartford Half course?  Great things, actually!

The NU Hartford Half Marathon still starts with the marathon in front of the CT State Capitol and turns south, away from the marathon, about a mile in.  Before the split, you’ll hit a modified turn onto Farmington Ave, making for a smoother and more fluid turn.  The majority of changes were made around Elizabeth Park, highlights include the elimination of four turns mid-course, the enter and exit to the Park will now be off Asylum Ave and you’ll run past the Connecticut Historical Society and UConn School of Law, a beautiful area.

The 5K course will not be changing at all this year.  With the exception of slightly adjusting the turn-around for Farmington Ave turn in the first mile of the marathon course, things remain the same there as well.

We often get asked by from participants why their GPS readings are not the same as course length.  Typically, the "short course prevention factor" is what throws off the measurement.  All USATF certified courses are required to include a 1/10th of 1 percent (one-thousandth percent) extra cushion to make sure no one runs less than the stated distance.  For a full marathon, that means 42.1925 extra meters or a little more than 135 feet. This is standard to every single certified course, so give yourself a little extra credit!  More details on this are available here.

Link to NU Hartford Marathon course (with relay exchanges)

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